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Palladium uses

Compared to gold, silver or platinum; palladium is a relatively fledgling metal in the investment market, and yet despite this, it was for a few years the most valuable of the four precious metals, overtaking even gold. The driving force behind this impressive price climb is a combination of the uses palladium has, and how rare it is. Recent years however have seen palladium fall back in price.

Palladium bullion coins, just one of palladium's uses.
Palladium is slightly more reactive than some of the other PGMs (platinum group metals), and will dissolve in nitric acid, sulfuric acid and hydrochloric acid. Palladium is the softest, least dense, and has the lowest melting point of all the PGMs. All of these properties help make palladium a unique, and highly useful, precious metal. It is these industrial uses of palladium that have helped it become the most expensive of the four main precious metals.

What is palladium used for?

Palladium is used for a range of industries, but the automotive industry is it's primary source of demand. Below are some of the top uses of palladium across a range of industries.

  • Catalytic converters – The biggest use of palladium by a large margin, is in the automotive industry, and specifically catalytic converters. Palladium acts as an excellent catalyst, and helps turn some of the polluting compounds expelled as part of an internal combustion engine into less harmful components. These compounds – such as hydrocarbons and nitrogen – are highly damaging to humans and the environment, and have been subject to strict regulations in recent years. For years platinum was the metal of choice for manufacturers but, as prices climbed, they turned to palladium as the viable alternative.

  • Precious metal investment – As the current highest valued precious metal, it should come as no surprise that palladium is now highly valued as an investment asset. Palladium coins have been issued since 1966, and today a number of mints and refiners produce coins and bars made from this extremely valuable metal.

  • White gold jewellery – Although yellow gold is traditional for jewellery, white gold is also a popular choice, and palladium is one of the metals that is used in white gold alloys. Palladium is also used itself for jewellery in purer forms, usually at 950 fineness due to its softness.

  • Electronics – In the electronics industry, palladium is used for electrical contacts, in ceramic capacitors and for soldering materials.

  • Dentistry – In dental amalgams small amounts of palladium are used to help fight against corrosion, and increase the lustre of the filling. This is typically done at less than 0.5% palladium; with mercury, silver, tin and copper commonly making up the rest.

  • Transverse flutes – Professional, concert-grade flutes, are often made of precious metals. Although sterling silver is a common material, palladium is sometimes used to produce the tubes inside these flutes.

  • Photographic printing – Similar to silver, palladium salts are often used as a light sensitive material used in printing. Palladium salts produce a unique tonal quality that was used extensively in the late 19th century, and today are used in artistic appreciation of the style.

  • Hydrogen purification and storage – Palladium’s ability to absorb hydrogen has seen it used to purify, and safely store, the highly volatile element hydrogen. This is useful for fuel cells; hydrogen is a highly efficient fuel source and finding ways to store large amounts safely could help power technologies of the future. In particular, nano-particles of palladium have been found to be even more efficient in absorbing hydrogen, and research is ongoing into how this can be used.

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